Driven or Called?

Why are we weary? What makes us burdened? One reason is that we refuse help, both from God and others. We are driven by pride, instead of called by grace.

How does it feel to be driven? It is an inner compulsiveness to do everything that comes our way. The driven person feels that everything is necessary, nothing is optional. When a need comes along, one that could be met by someone else, the driven person will assume it has his name on it. 

Pride is a cruel taskmaster. An inner slave driver. It grabs us by the hand and drags us faster and harder than we were meant to go, like a small child being pulled to along by an impatient grown up.

Instead, Jesus calls us to repent of impatience and become like a child (Matthew 11:25). By faith in Christ that’s what we are, children of the Father who has shown us his Son. 

He calls you and me—the driven—to come to him and find rest.

Called To His Yoke

Jesus’ next words take us by surprise. He says “Take my yoke and learn of me.” We thought he was going to slip the burden off our backs and hand us a terrycloth robe and slippers. We were envisioning a hot tub and massage.

But he offers something better. “Take my yoke” involves removing our yoke and replacing it with his. His yoke is different from our self-imposed one. How?

If you haven’t plowed a field with oxen recently, here’s the picture. The yoke attaches the oxen to whatever burden it drags. In our world the yoke is the “yes” we give to a responsibility. Every “yes” connects us to one more task.

Jesus knows we have a burden of genuine responsibilities to pull through life. He also knows our tendency to exceed our limited strength by taking on too much, and attempting to do it by ourselves. But that isn’t the life God intended for his children. Jesus calls us to slip out of our “yoke for one” and join him in his “yoke intended for two.”

We will pull this load together, Jesus and me. Single or married, divorced or widowed, we won’t be working alone.

We will also learn from him, when to say yes and when to say no. How to pull as a team with our invisible partner. Neither dragged or straining, we will learn his pace. His yoke is easy. Here’s how the Message puts it:

“Walk with me and work with me, watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.” 

Jesus offers his yoke, but he doesn’t stop there.

Called To His Burden

He also offers us his burden. That might not sound encouraging if we think we have to add his burden to our own. Our burden—the many things we feel we have to do and be in order to feel OK about ourselves—is crushing us. How can we add one more thing to it?

You know what it feels like when people give you one more thing to do. The phone rings, “Could you make a dozen ornaments for the upcoming holiday bazaar? They don’t have to be fancy, anything will do. Gotta run, thanks for helping!” The weary are usually “yes” sayers. We add to our God-given responsibilities ones that we could and should say no to. While many of our responsibilities are non-negotiable, many others are optional. Those are the ones that get us into trouble.

That’s what the Pharisees did to those around him, piled burden on top of burden, without offering an ounce of help.

“They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger.” Matthew 23:4

Jesus does the opposite. Rather than adding one more thing to our overburdened conscience, he takes our burden from us and hands us his. Where does he takes our burden? To the cross, dying for every sin of pride that got us into this mess.

What does he hand us in its place?

His great finished work. Then he calls us to the works he has right sized for us. His burden is light. 

The One Who Calls

We have a new boss now. If you’ve ever had a harsh or unreasonable boss, you might have concluded that being self-employed is easier. But if you’ve ever tried to run your own business, even out of your home, you know that the work-life boundary gets fuzzy fast and your inner boss gets…well…bossy.

When Jesus calls us into his yoke, he is offering to work along side us. We are his fellow worker.

But Jesus is also our master. What kind of a master is he? He tells us, “For I am meek and lowly in heart.” He is a better master for us than we are for ourselves. 

He is humble. We are proud. He is gentle. We are harsh with ourselves. He offers us rest. We drive ourselves to exhaustion.

Let’s take his yoke and learn of him.

“I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

—the Message

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